We are all products of everything we’ve ever seen, done, or felt. I’m no different. I drew from countless tropes, shows, movies, and comic books I’ve consumed over the years to create Dogboy: Den of Thieves. Add all of these disparate sources together and you get Dogboy.
My Secret Identity
My Secret Identity was a syndicated TV series that showed on Channel 13 in Houston when I was a kid. Jerry O’Connell plays Andrew, a 13-year-old kid who gets hit with a weird ray in his neighbor Dr. Jeffcoate’s home lab. This gives him the classic set of superpowers: flight, strength, speed, and limited invulnerability.
I had fond memories of the series for decades and decided to watch the entire four seasons on Youtube this summer. It shocked me how much this show infected my creative DNA. The relationship between Andrew and Dr. Jeffcoate in particular reminded me of the relationship between Bronson and Mr. Horum.
The Hardy Boys
The Hardy Boys is a series of adventure novels created around 1927. Frank and Joe Hardy are two teenagers who solved crimes in their small seaside town of Bayport. Boats, lighthouses, and general water sports figured in to a lot of the original stories. The upcoming Dogboy: Danger on Liberty Pier takes these motifs and runs with them.
They were created by Edward Stratemeyer (the inspiration for the Stratemeyer River in Colta City) to sell books for his book-packaging firm. They were actually written by several different ghostwriters but they all said Franklin W. Dixon on the cover.
I read a ton of the original stories growing up, both the classics from the 1950’s run (pictured above) and the 1990’s Hardy Boys Casefiles. Along with Encyclopedia Brown and Danny Dunn these books are the biggest tonal inspirations for Dogboy.
REM – Low
If it wasn’t for this song the Guild of Thieves probably wouldn’t exist.
As I’ve mentioned on the podcast Den of Thieves is based on a screenplay I wrote back in 2005. I lived in Philadelphia at the time. One day while riding the cheap subway to my girlfriend’s in Bryn Mawr I was figuring out the structure of the story. I got stuck on who the “Big Bad’ of the story should be. I knew I wanted him to challenge Bronson’s ideas about fate and personal responsibility, but I wasn’t quite sure how to do that without it being too on the nose.
The train groaned and stalled in the middle of the tunnel. Out my window I saw a small passageway going back a few hundred feet. It was creepy, especially since the driver would’t tell us what happened.
This song by R.E.M. came up on my CD Player and as I saw some workmen appear in the tunnel it occurred to me that I could do a lot of fun things with a group of criminals that lived in the tunnels underneath a big, old city.
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
When I was a kid I loved Charles Dickens. Bleak and beautiful. After my bit of inspiration on the subway I realized that the “big bad” convicing Bronson to steal because the rich are holding out on the poor would be a great way to address the themes of the story. It also provided an interesting twist: Who expects a superhero to go bad in his origin story?
Andrus was based on Fagin, the villain of Oliver Twist. The band of children he led were the inspiration for the Guild of Thieves. The children who live in the subway with the Guild are a nod to that. If you’re going to write a story about an orphan you are required by federal law to use Dickens as a reference.
Stan Lee’s Initial Run on Spider-Man
Stan Lee’s first 50 issues or so of The Amazing Spider-Man were also a huge influence on how Dogboy fights crime and equips himself. Peter Parker’s early adventures were marked by a devotion to the little details that made a superhero seem plausible in 1960’s New York City.
I remember in particular one comic where Spidey puts his normal clothes in a backpack, then sticks it under a fire escape with his webbing. When he returns the bag is on the ground (since his webbing only lasts an hour) so he has to scramble to find what he can of his civvies. Realistic and smart. I tried to bring that same kind of dynamic to Dogboy, particularly in his first face-off with Blaze.
Speaking of Blaze… The trio including him, Osbert, and Hot John is loosely based on The Enforcers, some early foes of Spider-Man. I also name check the Master Planner Saga from Amazing Spider-Man #30-33 in Chapter 2 of Den of Thieves. The reason should be apparent once you finish the book. If only Bronson had read the story a little closer…
Little Shop of Horrors
In the film version of the stage musical Rick Moranis plays Seymour, a grown orphan who works in an old flower shop on the bad side of town.
While Seymour and Mr. Mushnik’s relationship leaves a lot to be desired I always liked the idea of a shop keep adopting an orphan to help around the store (hence Mr. Horum’s magic shop). The Old Curiosity Shop alsogives Dogboy a base of operations where anybody can walk in and anything can happen.
What stories inspire you? Let me know in the comments!